Monday, June 29, 2009
But lately, it's my skin that really has me thinking about authenticity. I have very sensitive skin. People who don't know my skin and the shenanigans it can pull admire it. They think I'm lucky to have such a clear complexion and such delicate, young-looking skin. That's because they don't know how treacherous my skin can be. First of all, my skin is allergic to everything. Everything. Second, it doesn't make calluses. Think about that for a minute. The skin on my feet will blister and peel repeatedly rather than just making a callus already. The palms of my hands were reduced to a bloody pulp during three long seasons of crew rowing, and nary a callus in sight. And every few years my skin decides to follow up an allergy attack with a particularly bad case of eczema, which is practically incurable without resorting to the dangerous, toxic medical remedies available. So I've spent a lot of time resenting my skin.
But lately, in the middle of my current allergy/eczema attack in which the backs of my hands and my arms up to the elbow are covered in a fiery red rash with dry flaky patches and an incredible itch, I find myself gaining a new perspective on all of this. I think my skin is simply refusing to lie. There are things in my environment that are toxic, and my skin is not going to lie about it. Further, stress can cause eczema flare-ups and slow the healing process, and I'm under a lot of stress right now. So when you take the physical and social toxins in my environment into account, it would make less sense for my skin to be all healthy and clear right now. In fact, it would be a facade, a fake presentation, a lie. So as I continue to apply the natural remedies and gentle, toxin-free lotions and creams, and protect my skin from the mosquito repellant and chlorine that started this whole bout, I refuse to berate my skin the way I did when I was younger. It's authentic. It's telling the truth.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Here's the important thing: During the Great Depression, unemployment would destroy men. They were told that money was all they had to contribute to their families; if employment vanished, they saw themselves as worthless. They couldn't become "stay-at-home dads" because that role did not exist. Few mothers worked and fewer earned enough to support families. Today, most moms work and we can say to unemployed fathers: you still have value to your family, they need for you to see to their well-being.
That's a message that a decade's worth of voluntary stay-at-home dads can send to today's laid-off dads. That's something men need to hear right now, that they can play caregiving as well as breadwinning roles in their families.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Of course, this kind of openness about gender just can't go on without invoking much hand-wringing and pearl-clutching.
A couple of Swedish parents have stirred up debate in the country by refusing to reveal whether their two-and-a-half-year-old child is a boy or a girl.
Pop’s parents, both 24, made a decision when their baby was born to keep Pop’s sex a secret. Aside from a select few – those who have changed the child’s diaper – nobody knows Pop’s gender; if anyone enquires, Pop’s parents simply say they don’t disclose this information.
In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.
“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”
The child's parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.
Pop's wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop's hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.
Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop's parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop.
"I believe that the self-confidence and personality that Pop has shaped will remain for a lifetime," said Pop's mother.
There are so many issues here it's difficult to decide which one to respond to first. So here goes.
“Ignoring children's natures simply doesn’t work,” says Susan Pinker, a psychologist and newspaper columnist from Toronto, Canada, who wrote the book The Sexual Paradox, which focuses on sex differences in the workplace.
“Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual,” Pinker tells The Local.
“It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to keep this a secret for long. Children are curious about their own identity, and are likely to gravitate towards others of the same sex during free play time in early childhood.”
Pinker says there are many ways that males and females differ from birth; even if gender is kept ‘secret,’ prenatal hormones developed in the second trimester of pregnancy already alter the way the child behaves and feels.
She says once children can speak, males tell aggressive stories 87 per cent of the time, while females only 17 per cent. In a study, children aged two to four were given a task to work together for a reward, and boys used physical tactics 50 times more than girls, she says.
- From the description in the article, it sounds like Pop's parents are doing the opposite of "ignoring Pop's nature." Allowing Pop to explore the world in Pop's own way and discover what Pop likes, what tendencies Pop has, etc. is simply allowing Pop's nature to flourish. In other words, they're responding to Pop's needs "as an individual," rather than as a gendered child. On the other hand, forcing a child into one box or the other does count as ignoring their nature. Telling a child that some behaviors are appropriate for them based on their genitalia, while other behaviors are off limits is ignoring their nature. And shaming them for having any characteristics or propensities or preferences that don't fit into the little box to which they've been assigned is "ignoring their nature." Got it lady? Moving on...
- As anyone who's read any Lacan or Irigaray or other reasonable thinkers in the psychoanalytic tradition knows, culture is acquired with language. And with culture comes gender. Yes, one acquires their niche in the patriarchy as they acquire language. By the time a child can speak well enough to tell aggressive or non-aggressive stories, they've been socialized into our compulsory system of binary gender. So that means they know good and well which kind of behavior (aggressive or passive) they're supposed to engage in and how competitive or empathetic they're supposed to be. It's already been communicated to them in a million little ways.
- By the time a kid is socially sophisticated enough to work with others for an award, they're profoundly socialized. So it's hard to make any sense of this whole "from birth" shtick. None of the gendered behaviors that the ironically named Ms. Pinker cites as evidence of our different natures "from birth" would actually qualify as evidence of difference in any study which controlled for things like, oh, say, socialization.
- Ms Pinker's expertise doesn't really seem relevant to very small children, as she writes on gendered workplace dynamics, and presumably anyone who's old enough to enter the workplace has been thoroughly socialized and gendered by their culture.
Beyond the annoying Ms. Pinkers of the world, I would suspect that the parents of Pop will continue to encounter confusion, disapproval, and hostility by the people they interact with every day. I've been asked before whether I'm afraid my daughter will grow up to be a lesbian because I often dress her in "boy" (i.e. not pink or ruffly) clothes and don't insist that she play with girl toys and act girly. My response is "why would not being forced to be girly make her a lesbian, and why would I be upset if she was a lesbian?" This just always serves as a conversation-stopper, since the other person is never willing to explicitly state the things they've just implied.
And this is all very ironic, because all of the gay and trans people I know were raised in a conventional way. My cousin and I were treated no differently where gender is concerned, but she decided at the age of 32 that she could no longer live as a man. In fact, she grew up in a more conservative part of the country than I did. So I don't get this fear that not strictly indoctrinating your kids into a rigid gender construct is going to lead to homosexuality or being transgendered. But it also seems like the people who believe this are so committed to it that pointing out this fact won't change their minds. In my experience, anyway.
On the other hand, I can understand how a parent could be accepting of gay people themselves, and trans people themselves, without wanting their children to grow up to be gay or trans. After all, that means a life of social stigma and physical risk, and nobody wants that for their kid. On the other hand, being stuffed into a box which doesn't fit you isn't the kind of life you would wish for your kids either. So I guess my future response to questions or comments that suggest I'm putting my kids at risk by allowing them the freedom to negotiate gender in their own way will be "I hope they will be happy, well-adjusted, autonomous adults, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity." And what more can you hope for?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
- to provide a comprehensive Federal prohibition of employment discrimination
on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity;
- to provide meaningful and effective remedies for employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; and
- to invoke congressional powers, including the powers to enforce the 14th amendment to the Constitution, and to regulate interstate commerce and provide for the general welfare pursuant to section 8 of article I of the Constitution, in order to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The full text of the Act can be read here, and The National Center for Transgender Equality has more info and an action toolkit here. Also, if you wish to email your representatives directly, click here.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
- The "baby was born to an illegal [sic] immigrant;"
- The "mother had not purchased a crib, clothes, food or formula." (Most Latina mothers breast feed their babies).
- "She does not speak English which puts baby in danger."
Please call or write to the judge and/or the Department of Human Services that are involved in this case:
Honorable Judge Sharon Sigalas
Youth Justice Court of Jackson County
4903 Telephone Rd.
Pascagoula, MS 39567
Children's Justice Act Program
MS Dept. of Human Services
750 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39202
Call (601)359-4499 and ask for Barbara Proctor
Friday, June 19, 2009
On a more serious note, I've always been closer to my dad, and some recent events in our extended family have highlighted to me some of the reasons I respect my dad so much. So just in time for Father's Day, here are some thoughts on why I wanna by like my dad.
My dad is well-educated and thoughtful. Moreover, he has an opinion on everything, and a story to go with it. Seriously, this guy can talk. On the other hand, he also knows when to keep his mouth shut and how to be very tactful. He refuses to burn bridges with those he loves, regardless of the nature or extent of the disagreement. I often wonder if he didn't internalize the advice my great grandmother gave when asked on her 90th birthday by a reporter from the local newspaper on what her secret was to having successfully survived the Depression with 13 children and a healthy intact marriage. She said "I've always found that the most important thing in a relationship is knowing when to keep your mouth shut." I've spent a bit of my feminist life pondering that advice, and I'm sure I'll have something to say on it in a later post. But in some regards, I do think my dad internalized this advice, although maybe he absorbed it directly from her throughout his childhood.
Recently my grandmother (the oldest of the 13) had to move into an assisted living facility, which caused a great deal of scrambling and stress. My dad, who lives in a different part of the country from her, spoke with her several times regarding what she wanted and then flew back for several weeks to help her investigate the options. She was leaning toward the small assisted living home in her old home town, where she lived for most of her life and still has many friends. But just as he started to make the arrangements, my aunt and cousins, who live in a nearby city and had not been particularly helpful up to that point, jumped in and moved her to a large facility in the city closer to them, claiming that my dad was trying to take control for some selfish motives. In fact, he was trying to take control, but only because nobody else was really doing anything. This isn't terribly surprising, since this part of my family has a penchant for manufacturing drama and getting into feuds with each other that sometimes result in a mutual silent treatment that can go on for years. So I wrote it off as some manufactured drama, and my dad sort of silently let it drop, refusing to take the bait and be drawn into the drama. Meanwhile my grandma seems to have adjusted to her current living situation just fine.
But now the issue of her house is becoming a problem, as it is badly in need of repair, and continues to drain her finances each month that it sits empty. Last week my dad went back again to begin making repairs and hire some local help. The locks had been changed by my cousin, and my aunt had told another relative that she wouldn't allow my dad to sell the house, even though everyone (except my aunt) agrees that this would preserve the most money for my grandma's care and a possible inheritance. If the house is rented, Medicare gets every penny and the family still has to pay the taxes and insurance, whereas if it's sold they can invest the money. It's a no-brainer, right? At any rate, my dad is the executor of the trust (or whatever you call it for a trust), so he lawfully broke into the house and commenced repairs. On the same visit he went out to breakfast with my aunt and her family to celebrate her birthday, but said nothing about the locks being changed or the work he was doing on the house. Somehow he managed to be loving and tactful in the face of the attempts to stir up drama and the aggression toward him while still trying to accomplish the work that needs to be done. And by all accounts, everyone had a pleasant visit.
And that's what I love about my dad. He won't compromise his values or goals, but still manages to maintain good relationships with those he loves in spite of petty baiting and fairly direct insults (on the part of my aunt and two cousins), or some very fundamental differences in worldview (between him and his kids, for example). And he's absolutely resolute and imperturbable in this. He simply will not engage in any exchange that damages relationships, even as he holds fast to his own views and quietly insists on maintaining a civil and warm connection. And this doesn't preclude the possibility of thoughtful conversation and vigorous debate on issues of disagreement, which most people in my family love to engage in. But he will not allow it to become personal or nasty. I've watched as this approach enables his relationships to weather all kinds of storms through the years, and to me, this is the embodiment of character and integrity. And this is how I wanna be like my dad.
not all homosexuals have characteristics x, y, and z, and it's discriminatory to believe that and treat them differently on the basis of this belief.In contrast, the social constructionist says
there are no homosexuals, only people who have all different kinds of sexual preferences, and these same people all have their own unique combination of propensities, characteristics, talents, political views, social tendencies, etc.See the difference? The second view automatically leads to equal treatment, because it insists that we're all just people, and our sexual preferences are not relevant to anything other than our own relationships.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Now that puts things in perspective, doesn't it.
Quoted by Ludovic Blain in Laying the Foundation for National Prosperity: The Imperative of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap from the Federal Reserve Board, 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances, "Full Public Data Set" (Washington: The Federal Reserve Board, 2009), http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/oss/oss2/2007/scf2007data.html (accessed March 4, 2009).
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The fact that this topic is framed in an either/or sort of way -- either you believe wholeheartedly in the unique and vital impact a father has on his children and reject all non-heteronormative family models or you denigrate the contributions of fathers and believe that a mother and child are better off without a troublesome man around -- makes it very difficult to have really helpful and constructive dialogue on the topic. This is another situation where those who dictate the terms of the debate control the debate. By forcing us into a false dilemma, they silence us. But of course, the best way to deal with a false dilemma is to reject it by either embracing both options and showing how they're compatible, or by pointing to a viable third option. And this is what I think we should do with the fatherhood debate.
Rather than merely focusing on the importance of parental involvement for both parents, we should move past this to look at a plethora of other issues concerning parenting. Some factors that play a prominent role in the way kids grow and develop are:
- Having a loving network of family and friends who are engaged with the child. This family may or may not be the traditional nuclear family. In fact, kids whose grandparents and extended families are involved often experience a more rich environment than those who are isolated in the conventional nuclear family.
- The resources that are available to the family. Families headed by a single parents tend to live on much lower incomes and have fewer educational and other resources that enrich a child's experience available to them.
- An increase in the number of elderly people who are impoverished and lack good housing options also means a lower number of grandparents who can provide much-needed help with childcare and support for single parents.
- Excluding gay and lesbian parents from the network of protections and assistance available to heterosexual married parents puts their children at a disadvantage.
But loosening societal norms concerning what counts as a family and providing better support for single parents and impoverished families and supporting the elderly so that they can contribute to the extended family and have a more meaningful connection with the younger generation etc. does not preclude a commitment to fatherhood and an acknowledgement of the important parenting contributions men have to offer. Fathers can be equally valued as parents even as we make the changes needed to support families in which a father is not actively involved. So I think it's important that feminists call out the implicit condemnation of single mothers and non-traditional families that often accompanies the moralizing concerning fatherhood. I think it's time we point out that it's not an either/or situation, that the conventional nuclear family is not the only option, and that we need to support and celebrate our families wherever and however we find them.
But maybe there's a relevant cultural commentary here too. My coworker suggests that this could be a reflection of how our culture - its values and turn-ons - is perceived by others via the American media items they're exposed to. Either way, it's pretty amusing:
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
It seems to me that much of the stigma and violence surrounding abortion would be impossible if abortion was simply integrated into normal medical practice. Any ob-gyn can perform an abortion. In fact, in the case of medical abortions (the pill), all it takes is a nurse practitioner, or anyone who's qualified to administer a pregnancy test and write a prescription. And if you don't believe that OBs perform the exact same procedures as surgical abortions all the time, ask most women who have had a miscarriage - it's common for a procedure very similar to the most common methods of surgical abortion to be performed on women who have miscarried but whose uterus doesn't seem to have discharged all the tissue. So it's not as if performing abortions is some mysterious thing that requires a whole other set of skills. Of course, some medical professionals may not feel comfortable providing abortion services, but for the majority of medical professionals, this doesn't seem to be the case, as is evidenced by the plethora of tests they push on you during pregnancy, which often result in a recommendation to abort if the results are positive.
By refusing to perform abortions in OB clinics and hospitals, the practice of abortion becomes segregated and ghettoized to clinics that are highly visible and easy targets. The patients who visit these clinics are much more likely to be seeking an abortion, so they're vulnerable to the hateful harassment of anti-choice protesters. And the medical professionals who work there are vulnerable to violence. Much of this would be resolved if abortion services were seamlessly integrated into other women's health services at clinics and hospitals. Nobody would know who to harass or target with violence if the same clinic served women who were carrying pregnancies to term and those who were just there for a pap smear and those who were there for a new BC prescription or IUD and those who had chosen to terminate a pregnancy... So maybe some doctors and nurses would opt out of providing abortion services, but most clinics have more than one doctor and more than one nurse, so this should be a relatively minor issue.
A few months ago I had an unplanned pregnancy at a very inconvenient time. Although we're technically open to the idea of having another baby (sort of), we simply couldn't handle it (in a number of ways) at the time. I was irritated with myself for allowing it to happen, and a little sad that the timing was so bad. After gliding through my twenties and early thirties with nary a single birth control slip-up, I find myself experiencing two unplanned pregnancies in my mid-thirties. Whatever happened to the biological clock and the it's-so-darn-hard-to-conceive-after-the-age-of-35 shtick so often used to scare women into early marriage and motherhood?
As I investigated my options (it was very early, so a medical abortion was an option for me), I discovered that in my state, there were none. And for no apparent reason. Abortion is not illegal here, but there are no providers. And there are no women's clinics here that will even prescribe the pills for a medical abortion, which requires no work on the part of the physician to bring about the abortion. And nobody seems to have a good explanation for this. Nobody knows why there's no access to abortion here, there just isn't. And if you ask your primary provider if they couldn't just prescribe the pills for you, you are met with a polite but conversation-stopping offer to write a referral to the Planned Parenthood clinic in a neighboring state for you.
So this wasn't a big problem for me - I'm privileged with a car and money for gas and the $400 cash upfront. But what happens to all the women who don't have access to transportation, or can't take the time off work to drive to a clinic in another state twice in a two-week period, and can't find child care for the kids they may already have (no kids allowed at the clinic), etc. etc.? If they could just go to their local women's health clinic and access abortion services from the same provider who is more than happy to take their money and give them pregnancy or preventative care, so many steps and so much stress and trouble would be cut out of the process.
And this is another case where I really feel that if this was a health issue that impacted men, these services would be locally and easily available, in a much less visible and stigmatized way. But once again women's health in general, and abortion services in particular, are ghettoized and undervalued. And this enables the hatred and violence that surrounds abortion in our country. By separating out and clearly marking abortion from other women's health services, we create an environment that enables the hatred and violence to continue. But why isn't anyone talking about this factor? And why aren't we exploring this option for reducing the hatred and violence?
Monday, June 15, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
But beyond that there's the whole attitude toward birth that surrounds these kinds of shows that is deeply fucked, in my view. The explicit message is allegedly woman-centric and empowering and shit like that. Isn't birth a miracle? It's the most magical day in a woman's life (except for her wedding, of course). But the implicit messages totally and completely contradict these explicit messages. The implicit messages are that birth is a mysterious and dangerous thing, that it's scary and out of control, a medical disaster waiting to happen, that women can't do it on their own, which is why they need medical professionals to deliver the baby for them while they try to be good little girls and behave. It's portrayed as an inherently medicalized thing, in which all kinds of disorders occur within the woman's body. She's a patient, not an agent. Birth happens to her, rather than being something she actively does. And she should never, ever question the medical professionals or act like a mature, rational adult who can understand and take some control of the experience, lest she endanger the baby. If she dares to conceptualize childbirth as anything other than terrifying, horribly painful, and out of control, she'll experience a kind of eyerolling and naked contempt she's never before encountered. Because that is how patriarchy steps in and manhandles you at the moment when you're in the most need of support and encouragement. Fuck that.
As the dreaded wedding season approaches, and as our group of friends matures and settles into relationships that are evolving from the this-is-so-exciting-and-thrilling-and-romantic phase into a more calm, deep, and often more rewarding partnership (or not), I’ve been thinking about the way our culture constructs romantic relationships. As others have said before, the way romantic relationships are portrayed in movies and TV shows, and the way a relationship is thought to be so central to a woman’s life (but not a man’s) is deeply problematic. Similarly, the way that landing the right man is supposed to solve all your problems (think romantic comedy here) is a huge issue. And finally, the ridiculous idea that a soul mate exists for each and every person, and all you have to do is find that person and the rest is cake and rainbows is unspeakably absurd.
For one thing, all this “soul mate” ideology puts an incredible amount of pressure on the person who’s allegedly your soul mate, and dooms your relationship with them to be plagued by endless disappointment. After all, a soul mate is supposed to meet your every need, and be your perfect companion. Who, I ask you, can possibly match those criteria? Second, if there’s only one perfect soul mate for you, what are the chances you’ll ever meet? What are the chances you’ll even live on the same continent and speak the same language? If it really were the case that there was one perfect soul mate for every person, and we all held out to find that perfect someone, then the vast majority of people would end up single while their “soul mate” lived a similarly isolated existence somewhere on the other side of the planet. On the upside, maybe that would bring the birth rate down and help the environment a bit.
But beyond these things, it seems to me like we grow up in a culture that instills us with a profound sense of entitlement when it comes to relationships. We’re taught to expect that our partner will meet all of our sexual, social, intellectual, and companionship needs, and if s/he doesn’t, then we’re “not compatible.” This ideology seems to go hand-in-hand with the completely-self-sufficient-nuclear-family-as-the-basic-social-unit mindset which really became dominant during the Victorian era and hasn’t truly lost its grip on us yet. I suspect it has a lot to do with capitalism, but that’s a topic for another post. Sometimes I wonder if people would be happier in their relationships if they had a more reasonable attitude and set of expectations. I think we can all agree that it’s simply not going to happen that one person is going to meet all your needs, and yet when we find ourselves in a less-than-completely-fulfilling situation, we feel like fate has dealt us a poor hand. And maybe that’s just us being privileged and pouty and entitled.
I’m not saying that personal fulfillment isn’t a worthy goal, or that we shouldn’t strive to develop relationships that are meaningful and allow us to flourish. What I am saying is that maybe we shouldn’t expect so much from one relationship and preference it so far above all others. Maybe we should be open to the idea that we get/give different things from/to different people, and if some of our needs are met by people outside of our primary romantic relationship, that’s probably OK. And maybe, as is the case in so many other aspects of our culture, we should let go of the consumer mindset we’ve been trained to have and stop judging relationships solely on the basis of what we get from them. I realize that this could sound dangerously similar to the old women-should-seek-their-fulfillment-through-serving-the-needs-of-others shtick, and that’s not my intention at all. What I am suggesting is that if we view our demand that our primary romantic relationship will fulfill us in every way as an entitled and consumerist mindset, we’ll be more likely to strike a healthy balance and develop workable, fulfilling-for-the-most-part relationships rather than relentlessly searching for that perfect Mr./Ms. Right who will meet our every need and solve all our problems. Or maybe this is just another way for me to vent my irritation and contempt for chick flicks…
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The death of a legend
Laura Ling and Euna Lee are sentenced...
Joy Behar gets her own show (yay!)...
Senate Republicans claim that Sotomayor's confirmation hearings shouldn't start until January 20, 2011 so that they can read through all of her cases before the hearings start.
What else did I miss?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
One interesting thing about current studies on this topic, is that due to the increase in standardized testing in the U.S., there's a plethora of test result available at many different levels (elementary through high school) that are easily accessible to researchers. Another factor is the type of meta-analysis that has become popular that allows you to incorporate a large number of study results and test them for various things like weighted average effect size. Doing meta-analyses helps to eliminate (or at least reduce) errors that result from small sample sizes, regional differences, etc. so this kind of analysis is particularly useful on issues of innate vs. environmental factors.
One recent review of current research is Gender, culture, and mathematics performance by Janet Hyde and Janet Mertz. Two of the questions considered by Hyde and Mertz are:
Do gender differences in mathematics performance exist in the general population? Do gender differences exist among the mathematically talented?Regarding the first question, meta-analysis on standardized mathematical testing in 1990 and 1995 showed that the mathematical performance for girls and boys tracked closely until they reached high school, at which point boys began outperforming girls by a small margin. But similar analysis done about 13 years later show that this performance gap has basically been eliminated. The authors note that this is most likely due to the increased number of female students taking the more challenging math and science courses.
But the second question that Hyde and Mertz raise are of special interest to me. I've been told, both by fellow engineering students back in the day, and by commenters on this blog, that my math teachers were justified in overlooking my mathematical ability because it's so terribly unusual for girls to be mathematically gifted. As if some statistical fact justifies silencing a particular, real-life student in your care and forcing them to assimilate, only to express great shock and wonder when they crank out a perfect score on the math portion of the SAT... but I digress. The idea is that, although it is the case that on average, girls' and boys' performance is very comparable, if you look at both ends of the spectrum (those who performs extremely well and extremely poorly) there are more boys than girls. But since the girls tend to cluster around the mean (at the middle in a normal table) and the boys tend to have roughly equal numbers at both extremes, they average out to be approximately the same. In case this is making no sense to you, refer to the handy visual aid below:
If you assume that the scores are normally distributed, you get this distribution, in which the brown area contains the majority of male and female students, while the green area shows the larger number of female students who tend to be closer to the mean, and the orange area shows that more male students will lurk around out toward the tails.
When meta-analyses of testing results are done on gendered variability, results vary depending on the countries that are included. In fact, in some countries there was no significant difference, while in others there was actually more variability among the females being tested. In addition, striking changes in the M:F ratio of mathematically gifted children in the U.S. correspond to the enactment of Title IX policies. All of this suggests that the differences are cultural rather than biological.
Hyde and Mertz conclude:
Current research provides abundant evidence for the impact of sociocultural and other environmental factors on the development and nurturing of mathematical skills and talent and the size, if any, of math gender gaps.
the U.S. also needs to do a better job of identifying and nurturing its mathematically talented youth, regardless of their gender, race, or national origin.
Big surprise, right? But it is nice to have statistical support for what some of us have been saying all along. Very nice.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Dr. Summers.
*Full text of the article, for those without institutional access.
A few minutes after this story was covered, the story of Abdulhakim Bledsoe was covered. Bledsoe has been charged with murder and with engaging in a terrorist act, ostensibly because he fired shots in an occupied building. Of course, Scott Roeder also fired shots in an occupied building. Lots of people were attending church that morning. But Roeder is being charged with murder and aggravated assault. So what are the relevant differences between these two cases? Roeder's skin is white while Bledsoe's skin is brown. Roeder professes to be a Christian while Bledsoe is Muslim. And Bledsoe killed a member of the military, while Roeder killed a "controversial late-term abortion doctor." As if Ritter only performed late-term abortions, and as if he wasn't in fact a gynecologist, not just "an abortion doctor."
So there you have it. The intersection of three aspects of the identities of the perpetrators and victims which make all the difference in who is labeled as a terrorist and who isn't. Because everyone knows that terrorists have brown skin, are Muslim, and want to kill American soldiers. Right?
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
First of all, why is it so hard for her to own the "feminist" label? Maybe she's afraid her work will be pigeonholed and dismissed if she does? I don't know, but when the message you're conveying is clearly feminist, it seems odd to be so reluctant to accept the label.
Second, what's with all the pandering and assuring teh menz that we really do love them and value them and intend to keep them around? If nothing else, it strikes me as a bit overdone. Why isn't the message that women are valuable in the workplace sufficient to stand on its own without all the pandering? And would it kill us to acknowledge that, while women are very well educated and competent, they still earn less than teh menz? I mean, Colbert got it right when he suggested that women save corporations a lot of money by earning less.
Finally, this still amounts to mommy-tracking, from an economic perspective. Arguing that women should be allowed flexibility in their career paths in order to fulfill parenting and family obligations still amounts to leaving women at a lower-paid and less-valued status. And it ignores the fact that many fathers would like to be really engaged parents as well, but don't see that as an option, given our cultural attitudes. And arguing that women "have different priorities" than men while not questioning why we have different priorities (we were socialized to have different priorities, we're shamed if we're not visibly self-sacrificing mothers and wives...) suggests that the ol' biological differences are at play here. And maybe it's not her job to differentiate these two causes, but given the fact that biological essentialism is the default explanation, I think we should all be very clear about this distinction when we're publicly discussing traits that are socialized into women.
Your thoughts on this?
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
And excerpt from the review by Brittany Shoot at WireTap:
Norlock argues that despite what many philosophers have ignored in the relationship between gender and forgiveness, the act of forgiving is very much a gendered act. Women are overwhelmingly expected to forgive—not necessarily because they are more wronged, though that argument could certainly be made—and often, forgiveness is associated with a particular type of femininity, though Norlock is clear to separate “femininity,” “forgiveness,” and “weakness.” To deal with the blatant sex bias in forgiveness studies, Norlock debunks the historically gender-neutral approach to understanding the moral power, compassionate communication, and radical activism of forgiving.
Now that I think about it, I suspect that forgiving belongs in the same category as yielding your space to men, and apologizing excessively. As subtle markers of hierarchy, this kind of social behavior that is so deeply gendered merits special feminist attention, in my view. And I intend to give the topic of forgiveness some very special attention, just the minute I can get this book into my grubby little hands.
ISLAMABAD (Online) - The country’s first woman broadcaster “Aapa Shamim” of Radio Pakistan, Mohini Hameed, passed away in Seattle, Washington, after a brief illness. The most popular and distinguished voice of Radio Pakistan for more than three decades, she became a legend in her lifetime. Titled the “Nightingale of Broadcasting,” she was especially known for children’s morning shows, and musical rendering of famous Urdu poets for children, besides being the most popular drama voice of her time. She was the recipient of numerous national awards including the lifetime achievement award. Her most famous rendering was “suno pyaari bacho idhar ao tum, batayen jo tumko wo sun jao tum”.
She leaves behind her husband Hameed Ahmed, a daughter Kanwal Naseer and son Ize Hameed. A wide cross section of television and radio artists, producers and media personalities visited the house of her daughter to condole the death of the broadcasting legend. The country has lost an icon in the field of broadcasting whose services to Radio Pakistan shall be remembered forever, the mourners said as they paid glowing tributes to late Mohini.
Monday, June 1, 2009
...but predictable. I often wonder why in a culture where beauty standard are so rigid and so central, we don't give more thought to the wreckage that's churned out by the system. In this case, because a single, relatively small body part doesn't conform to the rigid standard, this person deprives herself of sexual contact and intimacy. Of course, rather then work to change the standard and the imagery that reinforces it, we simply offer new medicalized ways to "fix" the problem, and bring in a new source of income for one sector of the industry, thus enforcing the idea that it is a problem. Over the last few years, the rates at which patients are pursuing labiaplasty surgery has been increasing exponentially. According to one website
Women get labiaplasty for different reasons. In my experience, the number one reason for a labiaplasty is the desire to reduce pain or discomfort experienced while wearing tight clothing (such as jeans or yoga pants) or playing sports (especially bike riding or horseback riding) or engaging in other physical activities. The second most common reason for labiaplasty is shame or embarrassment about the way their genitals look and the desire to change their appearance. Other times, women want to increase sexual function-- a reduction of the labia or clitoral hood can provide greater exposure of the clitoris, allowing for increased stimulation. Occasionally, a woman's labia are damaged during childbirth, and the procedure is restorative.
I don't doubt for a minute that many women with larger labia do experience discomfort. But from what I've seen in internet discussions of the procedure, I would bet that many women pursue the surgery because of the terribly negative body image that accompanies large labia, while reporting that they want the surgery to reduce discomfort, as this is the more socially acceptable explanation. It's depressingly ironic that they live in a culture that both shames them for not conforming to a random and harsh body ideal while also shaming them for pursuing surgery for aesthetic reasons.